Defeating ISIS

Published November 17, 2015

Last Friday’s attacks in Paris are going to change a lot of things. The air is leaking out of President Obama’s strategy for confronting the terrorist entity known variously as ISIS, ISIL, or the Islamic State. The President vowed a year ago that the United States “will degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL,” but there has been little progress toward that goal. Even the reliably liberal Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA) has broken with the President, contradicting his claim that ISIS is being contained. Sen. Feinstein told MSNBC that “I read the intelligence faithfully. ISIL is not contained. ISIL is expanding.”

Main Street’s Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) put in well in a powerful floor speech today, when he said that the Paris attacks demonstrated that the terrorist state has “the intent to attack us, the capability to attack us, and the sanctuary from which to plan those attacks. What should now be clear is that our people and our allies will not be safe until ISIL is destroyed — not just degraded, but destroyed; not eventually, but as soon as possible.” It’s all but inevitable now that the United States will impose a no-fly zone in Syria, assemble a coalition with our NATO allies and Arab partners to destroy the Islamic State, and put thousands of military advisors and forward air controllers on the ground rather than the current 50.

Also unsustainable is the President’s plan to admit 25,000 Syrian refugees this year, with the totals rising exponentially in the future, absent any truly rigorous system of screening out security risks. FBI Director James Comey admitted last month that a number of Iraqis who were “of serious concern” were previously given refuge in the U.S., including two who later were arrested on terrorism-related charges. Syrian refugees will be even harder to check because there aren’t any U.S. soldiers on the ground collecting information about the local population. “If we don’t know much about somebody” from Syria, said Comey, “there won’t be anything in our data. I can’t sit here and offer anybody an absolute assurance that there’s no risk associated with this.” It’s doubtful the American people will cheerfully accept that risk after the Paris attacks.

Now Main Street’s Rep. John Katko (R-NY), who’s chairman of the Transportation Security Subcommittee in the House, is warning that an airport worker was probably responsible for planting the bomb that brought down a Russian airliner over Egypt three weeks, and ISIS may seek to do the same here. The TSA earlier this year rejected full screening for airline workers; you can bet that decision will soon be reversed. What once were considered tolerable risks have now become intolerable.